Tracks of 2014: Left Of The Dial

Our look back at the best tracks of the year continues with some alternative alternatives

Jack White - Temporary Ground On his second solo album, Lazaretto, Jack White largely abandoned straight-ahead riff-rock and instead cooked up a dark, intoxicating melange of gothic folk, funk, Americana and swamp blues. The bewitching Temporary Ground, a duet with fiddle player Lillie Mae Rische, is a striking declaration of freedom on a break-up album heavy with allusions of independence. Happily, it also serves to reclaim the whistling solo from its post-Winds Of Change doldrums.

Smashing Pumpkins - One And All Purists may snipe that a Smashing Pumpkins line-up devoid of original members James Iha, D’Arcy and Jimmy Chamberlin isn’t the ‘real’ Pumpkins, but then Billy Corgan’s control freak tendencies always ensured the Pumpkins only ever complied with his singular, uncompromising vision. That Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee plays drums on the group’s ninth studio album Monuments to an Elegy alters the Pumpkins’ DNA not one jot, as evidenced by the driving, dreamy multi-layered fuzz of One And All.

Pixies - Indie Cindy Has there ever been a comeback album less desired than the Pixies’ follow-up to 1991’s Trompe Le Monde? Such is the Boston band’s iconic standing within the alternative rock community that no-one wanted their legacy tarnished, and when much-loved bassist Kim Deal bailed on the studio sessions in 2013 many feared the worst. And yet the combination of that voice, that guitar and those stream-of-consciousness lyrics can still cause goosebumps to rise.

Buzzcocks - People Are Strange Machines While their peers have long since settled for nostalgia, cash-ins and self-parody, Buzzcocks continue to try to make sense of the brain-mangling absurdities of modern existence. November’s The Way album, the quartet’s six full-length release since their 1989 reformation, found the Mancunian punk legends on fighting form, not least on this stinging, spiky post-punk blast from Steve Diggle. But wait! What’s that? Waddya mean there’s no video for this song? Ah. Now we just look silly. Well, here’s It’s Not You instead.

Bass Drum Of Death - Left For Dead 2014 was a good year for two pieces, with The Black Keys, DZ Deathrays and Royal Blood all making big noises. With Rip This, Mississippi’s Bass Drum Of Death made an album that could go toe-to-toe with any of them. The scuzzy, fuzzy Left For Dead is a neat introduction for newcomers, with a sleazy Grindhouse video that’s hard to forget.

Little Matador - Stitch Yourself Up Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolly threw fans a curveball with the creation of Little Matador, a QOTSA/White Stripes/Nirvana-inspired quintet featuring pals from Ireland’s alt. rock community. The band’s swaggering debut single was a beauty, a down ‘n’ dirty ‘won’t get fooled again’ riff-rocker picking at the scabs of a broken relationship.

Bob Mould - I Don’t Know You Any More For anyone familiar with Bob Mould’s brilliant back catalogue, the biting adrenaline-pop thrust of I Don’t Know You Anymore will provide an instant Proustian rush, but who knew that the former Husker Du/Sugar man also had a gift for deadpan comedy, as exhibited in the accompanying video? Mould has been obsessed with electronica in recent years but what a treat it is to hear that sweetly overdriven guitar in attack mode once again.

Weezer - _Back To The Shack _ Weezer’s first three albums are so damn flawless that everything Rivers Cuomo has written since has rather paled in comparison. The quartet’s ninth studio collection Everything Will Be Alright In The End might not have hit such peaks, but its winning lead-off single, the self-referential power-pop anthem Back To The Shack, was a fine stab at reviving Blue Album/Green Album memories.

Band Of Skulls - Himalayan Southampton’s Band Of Skulls are one of the few British bands with a credible, convincing grasp of desert-rock dynamics, and the trio’s third album does a sterling job of updating traditional sludge templates with a 21st century glam rock strut. The thumping title track is quite irresistible, a deliciously poised meld of sweet melodicism and bad-ass grooving.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - A Million Random Digits Austin, Texas’s …Trail Of Dead have long been one of the American underground’s most enigmatic outfits, and 2014’s IX finds the quartet striking a perfect balance between their early post-hardcore fury and the more experimental, proggy art-rock they began investigating once mainstream attention threatened. A Million Random Digits is a powerful reminder that the potential of six vibrating strings is far from exhausted.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.